Chapter 15 : Coincidences and Consequences
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‘Because,’ Albus spoke slowly, ‘it would mean the Obliviators never knew he was there.’
Daniel’s mouth dropped open. ‘Al… You don’t think…’ He stuttered. ‘You don’t think that this was magic?’
‘What did he say was on the side of the van?’ Albus prompted his friend to check the letter again.
Daniel’s eyes scanned the paper in front of him. ‘Just Like Magic,’ he read. ‘Bloody hell…’
‘It’s like the Ilfracombe Incident, right?’ Louis referred to a famous breach of the Statute of Secrecy that they had covered in History of Magic the previous morning. ‘Not every muggle who saw the dragon got a memory charm, but that didn’t matter, because no one believed them anyway.’
‘So Connor won’t get into trouble?’ Daniel worried about his friend.
‘He shouldn’t do,’ Louis shook his head. ‘Unless he goes looking for it.’
‘Oh, God,’ Daniel groaned. ‘Our teacher always said that was the only thing me and him were any good at…’
‘Come on, mate,’ Albus tried to reassure his friend. ‘You’re just thinking the worst now… and anyway, what are the chances of a muggle finding anything to do with magic, even if they go out looking for it? Then, if it’s happened once, what are the chances of it happening again?’
Daniel shrugged. ‘It already has, though, hasn’t it? To Connor, and then to Nat’s mate… Charlie?’ The other muggle-born nodded, confirming his friend’s name. ‘First having us coming up here, and now this. Is that a coincidence?’
‘It’s got to be a coincidence,’ Albus swallowed, realising that his housemates were all gazing at him. ‘Hasn’t it?’
‘Has it?’ Louis threw his cousin’s words back at him. ‘Why? That’s what Professor Kennedy always tells us to ask.’
Albus shook his head. ‘I… I don’t know,’ he sighed, his confidence evaporating. ‘Merlin…’
‘Should we tell anyone?’ Nathan was still clutching the contents of his own envelope, having re-read the letter twice more to himself.
‘Who?’ Louis answered one question with another for the second time in as many moments. ‘If Al’s right, and Connor should have been Obliviated, what happens then? Will they tell? And what do we write back? It was easy enough last time, but what can we say this time without breaking the Statute?’ He shuddered. ‘I can tell you one thing for certain, though… Miranda Skeeter must not find out.’
The other first-years nodded unanimously.
‘What about the other Ravenclaws, though?’ Nathan changed the subject subtly.
‘Xan and Toby?’ Albus clarified.
Albus glanced from Nathan to Louis and then to Daniel. ‘Do we trust them?’
‘Yes,’ Louis answered, adamantly. ‘They stuck up for me at the start, when… when,’ he lowered his voice to a whisper, ‘you didn’t.’
Albus looked away from his cousin, suddenly feeling a great deal more self-conscious. ‘That’s a good enough reason for me,’ he acknowledged. ‘Should we tell them in Transfig?’
Daniel shook his head. ‘Afterwards,’ he asserted. ‘It’s too easy for someone else to hear in a lesson.’
‘So, chaps, we’ve all more or less got that first spell going by now, which is great to see. Your homework is six inches of parchment – what single thing has made the most difference to mastering this Transfiguration for you?’ Professor Bennett clapped his hands together, emphasising the final word of his instructions. ‘This is quite a personal question, so I won’t be impressed if your answer happens to be the same as your best friend’s! See you next week… Oh,’ he grinned, ‘remember PIES!’
The classroom descended into a chorus of groans as the children headed towards the door, going their separate ways towards tower or dungeon. ‘Hey, Xan?’ Louis caught his friend as the Ravenclaw stood up from the seat behind him, and lowered his voice. ‘There’s something we need to tell you.’ The redhead glanced around, noticing that Albus had finished a similar conversation with Toby Stretton, and led the other boy across the classroom to join the rest of his friends.
‘You don’t believe in coincidences, do you, Xan?’ Daniel began, provocatively, as the first-years tracked down an empty room, just down the corridor from Greg’s classroom.
Alexander swallowed. ‘I, well, er,’ he recalled the previous day’s History lesson, where Professor Kennedy had asked an almost-identical question. ‘Not really,’ he took a breath. ‘No.’
‘Me neither,’ Daniel nodded. ‘So I wondered what you’d think of this…’ The muggle-born boy unfolded the letter he’d received that morning, and presented it to the black-haired Ravenclaw, whose mouth fell open as soon as his eyes reached the end of the first paragraph.
‘Wow,’ he stuttered, pushing the paper towards Toby’s hands so that his best friend could read its contents. ‘Just… wow.’
Toby echoed his friend’s surprise. ‘Is this for real?’
‘Yes,’ Nathan confirmed. ‘It must be. Charlie wrote to me saying the same thing.’
The Ravenclaw boy exhaled. ‘Have you told any of the teachers?’
‘No,’ Albus shook his head, decisively. ‘Do you think we should?’
Toby hesitated. ‘Well…’ He glanced to his housemate, who shrugged his shoulders.
‘What would they say if we told them?’
‘They’d Obliviate Connor, wouldn’t they?’ Louis repeated the theory he’d shared with the other Slytherins at breakfast.
‘Well…’ Alexander grimaced. ‘If that’s what happened to all the others, to those from your school, Nathan, then you’d guess yeah, they’d have to.’
‘Then we’re not telling,’ Daniel insisted. ‘I don’t want anyone messing with Connor, not if I can help it!’
Albus nodded. ‘Okay,’ he acknowledged. ‘Does anyone think we should tell?’ The boy glanced around his friends, giving them a moment to argue, but none did. ‘So we keep it a secret, then,’ he concluded, to a murmur of agreement from the other boys.
‘What do we say to them, though?’ Nathan asked. ‘When we write back?’
‘We do what Professor Bennett said,’ Daniel asserted. ‘We make sure we’re careful with the truth.’
‘Alright,’ Nathan agreed, sighing. ‘Oh, I wish we could see the muggle newspapers,’ he thought out loud, ‘then we’d at least know what was happening.’
Alexander raised his eyebrows. ‘Would you?’
‘Do we know what’s going on in the wizarding world because we read the Prophet?’ Alexander challenged the Slytherin, but it was one of the blond boy’s housemates who answered.
‘No!’ Louis snapped. ‘We just know whatever the writer thinks, no matter how much of an idiot they are!’
‘Or whatever the government will let them know,’ the Ravenclaw added to Louis’ criticism of the newspaper.
‘It’s still better than nothing, isn’t it?’ Nathan queried. ‘Isn’t it?
Albus shrugged. ‘Do you think Professor Smith might get some for Muggle Studies?
‘She might,’ Alexander nodded. ‘Or maybe Katie Shawcross, she takes our study lessons, and she’s in Ravenclaw. I’ll find out.’
‘I guess we shouldn’t worry about it too much, right?’ Louis thought out loud as the first-years headed back to the Slytherin common room. ‘I mean, there’s nothing we can do about it now, is there?’
‘Isn’t that why we should worry?’ Nathan countered. ‘Cause we can’t do anything about it?’
‘Maybe,’ Albus interrupted, ‘but haven’t we got enough to be worrying about here already?’ He followed the blond boy in through the marble doorway, only to freeze as he heard one of his friends’ names yelled aloud.
‘Louis Weasley?’ An unfamiliar voice echoed from the corridor of dormitories on the floor below the common room. ‘That little ginger freak in the first year? Do you really want him in the team?’
‘Look, Amy,’ the first-years heard Sammy Kerrigan trying to argue back. ‘I’m not going to let you blackmail me. Max is the A-Team seeker, end of story. I want you to play for the Bs, and if anything happens to him…’
The girl snorted. ‘This is my last year here, Kerrigan, and I’m not playing reserves,’ she shot back. ‘You either you pick me in the A-Team, or you don’t pick me at all, and you get stuck with a little runt in the first-year.’
‘I guess I’ll take my chances with the first-year, thanks,’ the Quidditch captain shot back, and the boys heard the slam of a bedroom door fade into the sound of footfall on the spiral stairs. ‘Oh,’ Sammy forced a smile onto his face as he met the group of eleven-year-olds. ‘Hey, guys.’ He stalled. ‘How are you?’
Louis glared stonily back at the older boy. ‘I heard everything,’ he fought to keep his voice steady before dropping his shoulder into the seventh-year’s body as he tried to force his way down the staircase.
‘Louis…’ Sammy pleaded, collaring the eleven-year-old as he tried to push his way past.
‘No!’ The redhead snapped, his composure disintegrating as his eyes began to water. ‘Fuck off! Let me go!’ He struggled against the seventh-year’s grasp.
Sammy shook his head. ‘Look, mate,’ he reasoned, ‘I know you’ve had a tough time of it this week, but… with respect, mate… you didn’t hear everything, and you deserve to know the whole story.’ Sammy felt the first-year relax. ‘Will you let me tell you?’’
‘Alright,’ Louis sniffed as the older boy loosened his grip, stumbling as he regained his balance.
‘Thank you,’ the captain acknowledged, gently leading the eleven-year-old towards one of the black sofas in the nearest corner of the common room. ‘You’re going to be the B-Team seeker,’ Sammy explained, ‘because I think you’re a fantastic flier, and you’re going to be an incredible Quidditch player when you’re older.’ He paused, waiting for the first-year to respond.
‘So… so… if you think that…’ Louis stuttered. ‘Then why…’
Sammy placed a hand on the younger boy’s shoulder. ‘That was Amy Donovan,’ he sighed. ‘She’s been on the B-Team for the last two, three years, first behind Ben Thackeray, and then Max jumped the queue. I thought I owed her an explanation… but she didn’t want to hear it.’
The first-year swallowed. ‘Do you think I’m a little ginger freak?’ He looked down at his feet as he asked the question.
‘Louis…’ Sammy pulled the first-year closer.
‘You didn’t say anything when she called me it,’ the boy shivered, ‘and I thought, I thought…’
Sammy shook his head. ‘Some people just aren’t worth arguing with,’ the captain concluded. ‘If you know they’re wrong, why waste your breath?’
‘Like Miranda,’ Daniel interrupted, coldly.
Louis managed a weak smile.
‘You didn’t really think that was what I thought, did you?’ Sammy ruffled the younger boy’s hair, even as the redhead blushed. ‘Oh, mate…’
‘Sorry,’ the eleven-year-old mumbled. ‘I didn’t… ’
‘How about you stop worrying about it then, hey?’ Sammy grinned as the first-year reddened further and his friends shared a laugh. ‘She’s not worth bothering with!’
‘It’s like you just said,’ Albus pointed out. ‘There’s nothing you can do about, so why are you worrying?’
‘Sounds like good advice to me,’ the captain smiled. ‘See you at the practice tonight,’ he nodded to the other first-years, ‘and you guys are always welcome, too. Someone’s got to take over when you’re seniors.’
‘Wonder if there’s anything worth reading in today’s Prophet?’ Daniel asked as a copy of the newspaper landed on the Slytherins’ breakfast table on Friday morning.
‘I doubt it,’ Albus rolled his eyes, reaching for the tabloid. ‘Let’s have a look.’
TELL US THE TRUTH!
News emerged on Thursday afternoon that the Ministry of Magic are aware of a potential wizarding involvement in the series of explosions that struck the centre of muggle Oxford last Saturday morning.
Reporters at your Daily Prophet were aware of the incidents within minutes, but after receiving advice from a number of Ministry officials, we were assured that the bombs were of a strictly muggle nature, and we took the decision not to print the story to avoid worrying our readers unnecessarily.
Since the weekend, however, Prophet sources have confirmed that Ministry investigators are pursuing links between the Oxford bombings and the muggles arrested at the Leaky Cauldron two weeks ago – another incident that the Ministry of Magic did not want you to know about.
Coming hot on the heels of the Ministry’s attempt to conceal the presence of a potentially dangerous part-Veela boy in the first year at Hogwarts – a story on which there has still been no further comment from the government, despite the Prophet’s concerns – this is another chapter in an episode that raises more questions than answers about the Ministry’s fitness for office.
Why is this news being concealed from us? To pretend that these problems do not exist, or to paint the government in an exalted light if and when an “unexpected” solution might be found? Or perhaps there is a more sinister explanation? These are all questions that, right now, none of us at the Prophet can answer. So, to put things very simply, Minister, WHY WON’T YOU TELL US THE TRUTH?
‘Shit,’ Daniel murmured. ‘It sounds like you were right all along, Al.’
Albus shook his head. ‘I bet it’s all crap,’ he dismissed the story, ‘it’s even going on about Louis being a Veela again – I mean, what’s that got to do with the Oxford bombs?’
‘They never said it did,’ Nathan observed, quietly. ‘They only mentioned that cause it’s something else they think the Ministry should have told them about,’ he swallowed, glancing to his friend. ‘Sorry, Louis…’
‘They’re just idiots,’ the redhead snapped. ‘This is nothing to do with me! They’re just trying to make people panic…’
‘…and buy more papers,’ Albus concluded, cynically.
‘Which will make them panic some more,’ Nathan noticed where his friends’ line of reasoning was headed.
Daniel rolled his eyes. ‘So then they buy more papers… and so on, and so on.’
‘What does it tell us that’s new, though?’ Albus re-read the article. ‘That, apparently, there’s some link between a muggle being in the Leaky Cauldron, and a wizard having something to do with these explosions in Oxford?’
‘Apparently,’ Louis condensed his cousin’s summary into a single word. ‘Like you said, it’s not even a story,’ he sighed. ‘All it tells us for sure is that Connor’s telling the truth.
‘Do you think he’s safe?’ Daniel worried about his old friend. ‘If the people in the van found out that he was, like, a witness?’
Nathan bit his lip. ‘How would they find out?’ He thought out loud. ‘And anyway, like Louis said, no-one believes him about the van anyway.’
‘I suppose,’ Daniel nodded. ‘We just better make sure nobody sees his letters.’
The final period on Friday afternoon’s timetable was a Defence Against the Dark Arts study lesson, another class that was shared between Ravenclaw and Slytherin, and one which – on this particular Friday – was allowing for a good deal of inter-House conversation.
As part of a practical revision of the simple ‘Expelliarmus’ and ‘Protego’ spells, the seventh-year student in charge of the class was arranging a series of mock duels, in which pairs of children attempted to disarm one another. As the lesson progressed, it became clear that the best duellists were Scorpius Malfoy and, to the Slytherins’ obvious displeasure, Miranda Skeeter.
‘Bloody hell, he’s quick,’ Felix Ashworth, the other first-year boy in the bronze and blue House, shook his head in a mixture of disbelief and admiration as he stumbled back to his housemates, having been summarily disarmed, and knocked to the floor, by the blond-haired boy. ‘Strong, too,’ Felix exclaimed, rubbing the part of his ribcage on which he’d landed.
‘Unlucky,’ Daniel acknowledged the other boy, as the seventh-year boy called the next pair of duellists to the stage. ‘I hope he does the same thing to Skeeter, though.’
Felix winced. ‘Me too,’ he whispered. ‘Me too.’
‘On 3… 2… 1…’
‘Expelliarmus!’ Scorpius, as Felix had observed, was the quickest to his spell, but Miranda was ready.
‘Protego,’ she shrieked, as a purple wall shimmered between the two duellists. ‘Ha!’ The girl turned to face Alexander, who sat alone at one side of the stage, quietly reading a textbook. ‘Bombarda! Depulso!’ Her spells worked perfectly, triggering a loud – but otherwise redundant – explosion just in front of the boy’s chair, before sending his textbook upwards, striking him in the chin and knocking both child and chair over backwards.
Even as an outraged roar began to echo across the classroom, Miranda, now no longer separated from Scorpius by the shield charm, swivelled back to her distracted opponent, whom she disarmed without a second thought.
‘I win,’ she sneered, as a sycophantic chorus of squeals and cheers brewed from the gaggle of Miranda’s friends, drowning out the seventh-year taker’s limp protests.
‘Miss Skeeter,’ he stammered, ‘I don’t quite think…’
‘You don’t think what?’ She turned on the older boy. ‘You said disarm him, what did I do? It’s not my fault the little Death Eater wasn’t paying attention!’ She waved the two wands in the seventh-year’s face, oblivious to the fact that Albus had tiptoed around the stage towards Scorpius.
‘Take this,’ the Slytherin whispered, passing the shorter boy his wand, ‘and take her out.’
Scorpius took the wand, a mischievous grin spreading across his pale face, and turned back to face Miranda. ‘STUPEFY!’ A broad beam of red light burst from Albus’ wand, striking Miranda squarely in the shoulder and knocking the girl to the floor.
‘Sorry?’ Albus called out, over-loud. ‘What was that about not paying attention?’
‘Mr… Mr Malfoy…’ the seventh-year fretted, growing ever more flustered as the Ravenclaw girls clustered hysterically around Miranda’s motionless form. ‘That is… you… you can’t… you can’t attack another student! Detention!’
‘Fine,’ Albus answered for the Ravenclaw, ‘but it was my wand, so you’ll have to put me in with him!’
The seventh-year’s face burned a fierce red ‘Mr Potter! Double Detention! Lesson over! GET OUT!’
‘Whatever,’ the first-year held an impassive stare. ‘It was worth it. Come on, Scorpius.’ He turned around, shepherding the other boy towards the classroom door as the other boys hurried to follow their housemates, Toby helping Alexander to his feet along the way.
Louis was the first to catch his cousin. ‘Al,’ he exclaimed, breathlessly. ‘That was awesome!’
‘No,’ the other Slytherin corrected him, dropping an arm around Scorpius’ shoulders. ‘He was awesome.’
Scorpius blushed as he heard Albus’ praise. ‘Thank you,’ he whispered, ‘and you’re right. It was worth it.’
‘Scorpius!’ Toby caught up with the group as they stopped outside the Great Hall. ‘I think this is yours,’ he held out the blond boy’s wand, which was gratefully grabbed by its owner.
‘Thank you,’ Scorpius repeated.
‘No,’ Alexander shook his head, feeling the bruise on his chin where the textbook had struck him moments earlier. ‘Thank you. She’d have got away with it otherwise.’ He took a breath, before pulling a crumpled piece of parchment from his pocket. ‘Just a coincidence, she dropped this when you knocked her out.’ He turned the paper out, showing the others the green handwriting it contained.
Daniel read the note aloud. ‘See if you can get the Veela to attack you. Then we’ll have a story. Love, Mum.’
What a bitch!’ Louis exclaimed, before exhaling deeply as he felt his nails becoming sharper and his fingers tensing.
‘It’s okay, Louis,’ Nathan grabbed his friend’s hand. ‘That’s not going to happen,’ he insisted. ‘She’s not going to win!’
‘Besides,’ Albus added, more thoughtfully, ‘I really don’t think she wants any of the teachers to find out about this,’ his green eyes sparkled, ‘and I get the feeling she might keep a bit quieter if she finds out we know.’ The boy grinned, before changing the subject as he remembered what his friend had originally said. ‘Wait a minute, Xan,’ he paused, ‘I thought you didn’t believe in coincidences?’
‘That’s just it,’ the Ravenclaw smiled. ‘I don’t.’
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by Woodrow Rynne